First of all... who still uses blogger?
B. I wanted to write about Peyton's Adventure because it is one of those experiences that I do not ever want to forget any details.
She had significant vision loss right around the holidays. Danny and I have always wanted to share some of our travel experiences with our nieces, nephews, younger cousins, siblings and god-children. But this bit of news made Peyton our priority. Even when she no longer has her vision, she will at least have epic memories.
We started the gofundme to help accelerate the process of getting Peyton across the Atlantic, because she is also born profoundly deaf and needs a parent for communication (she communicates via ASL as well as English and hears through her cochlear implants). So after our friends and family, read, shared, re-shared, donated and supported, we had reached our campaign goal and it was time to plan.
I am a freak who loves to plan every aspect of travel and finding deals and ways to maximize time as well as resources. After performing google flight sorcery, we had a solid itinerary, we had flights and AirBnB's booked, documents sorted, and the date set for the adventure to take place during her spring break, after all time is of the essence as vision loss is progressive.
First stop Paris, France:
We were all so tired from travelling, but we were soo ready to start exploring the city. We took the metro to lunch, then walked 2-3 arrondissements to Palais Royale and then to the Louvre. It was a late afternoon visit to the museum but we enjoyed the sculptures and paintings from different time frames as well as checking out the castle walls. The following days we were in Paris, we checked out the Eiffel Tower, walked along the Seine, had refreshments by the river, stopped at so many different cafes, checked out the Notre Dame cathedral, took a train to Chateau Versaille and walked around the castle and the garden, Peyton tried escargot (and didn't like it) and duck confit (loved it), waited for 1 hour for a fondue restaurant in Montemarte which served drinks in baby bottles, met friendly Frenchies, visited Sacre Coeur and strolled along the artsy streets of Montemarte.
Then we were off to Istanbul:
We hoped that by visiting France and Turkey, she can experience the difference in the lasting influences of the cultures. Peyton was most excited to see the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque) as she had just recently learned about Istanbul in school. Arriving in the asian side of Istanbul, Peyton immediately noticed the difference in dress, language, alphabet and food. We enjoyed the different spices in the traditional Turkish foods and enjoyed tea through out the days. We checked out Sultan Ahmet Mosque as well as New Mosque (both of which were under renovation). We walked to the Galata Tower and checked out the cute neighborhood lined with cafes, restaurants and boutique shops. We visited the lavish Topkapi Palace and saw intricate decorations as well as the cool artifacts in the museum. We also tried our haggling skills at the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. Finally we enjoyed the history and the insane architecture of the Hagia Sofia, built around 300 b.c. So much history and such contrasting culture from the west that she is used to. We also saw filming being done in Hagia Sofia and we were interviewed by a british news documentary group from iTV!! P.s. we are going to be famous!
On our way to South Africa... a layover in Abu Dhabi:
12 hours in Abu Dhabi was not to be wasted in the airport. We left our luggages at the lockers, took a taxi to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque even though we were warned it was closed- to check it out from the outside... then we did the only thing left to do, go to a mall, eat at the food court and watch Ready Player One. The conservative culture of the UAE was also an experience for Peyton, one that we hope that she can learn from. There are many different ways that people live and we hope that when she learns about different cultures and religions in school with an open mind.
Finally, South Africa:
We arrived reaaaallly late at Malelane and had an early morning date with the animals at Kruger National Park. We were picked up by our awesome guide Patrick at 5:30 am after arriving at 1:00 am. We were 5 minutes from the Malelane gate of Kruger and had an early start to our safari. We saw 4 out of 5 big 5 game: cape buffalo, lion, elephant and white rhinos. We saw baboons, zebras (Peyton's favorite), giraffes,￼ monkeys, impalas, kudus, a variety of birds, a snake, and warthogs. We also visited Hoedspruit Endangered Species Center which helps rehabilitate animals who have been affected by poaching. We learned about the dogs that they train to assist finding poachers, we saw a vulture pit, rhinos, cheetas and a leopard who stalked Peyton when she got close to its enclosures! We also saw an abandoned baby elephant and his walker walking with him teaching him how to eat. We learned so much about animal conservation and rehabilitation and the dangers of poaching and canned hunting to a species. We then drove to Saint Lucia where we went on a hippo and alligator encounter at the Unesco World Heritage Site estuary. We also went to Sodwana Bay were we put on life vests, took a bubble boat out to the reef and snorkeled with colorful schools of fish and corals in the Indian Ocean. Our adventure ended in Johannesburg in the Maboneng neighborhood, where we saw lots of colorful street art, lots of cafe￼s, boutiques and an awesome Ethiopian restaurant.